Two Unlikely Friends Share the Sweetest Wild Hug

Zaheer Ali noticed a lone rhino nibbling on some grass while travelling through the South African desert.

Even though Ali had his camera ready and the little oxpecker was perched on the rhino’s head, he didn’t notice anything particularly picturesque. However, everything was about to change in a matter of minutes.

ma daha (vcstock) - Perfil | Pinterest

The red-billed bird frequently gets caught hitchhiking on black rhinos’ heads and backs. On the rhino’s thick skin, the birds feast on ticks and fly larvae, clearing the enormous animal of unwelcome parasites. The rhinos give the birds a protected home and an ample supply, but their bond is deeper.

The red-billed oxpecker is known as “Askari wa kifaru” in Swahili, which means “the rhino’s guard.” Although the birds are only 8 inches long, a recent study found that despite this, they assist in protecting their larger friends.

Esteban Ariza - Rhino and Oxpecker

According to a study presented in Current Biology, oxpeckers alert rhinos to danger in order to make up for their poor vision.

That day, though, Ali saw something new while watching the rhino and oxpecker couple. “I watched as this small bird sharpened his beak on the horn of the rhino,” Ali wrote in a blog post for Zali Safari. “I’d never seen it before.” The bird was lying on the rhino’s horn when I picked up my camera, waited for the right moment, and then took the photo.

Photographer Catches Oxpecker Cuddling His Rhino Friend - The Dodo

Both animals appeared to be entirely at ease and content in each other’s presence, as the bird seemed to bend in to hug the rhino.

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